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India vs Australia: Cheteshwar Pujara wages lone battle with 16th Test ton for India on Day 1

Cheteshwar Pujara slowed down his inning against the new ball and accelerated alongside the tail on the opening day of the first Test against Australia in Adelaide. India stood at 250/9 at stumps.

Cheteshwar Pujara showed varying level of batting discipline to be patient when the ball was doing plenty in the morning session and wickets falling and then took up the pace alongside the tail on the first day of the opening Test against Australia. On the day, Pujara didn’t score a run for 55 minutes while partnering Rohit Sharma but then sped up the run rate while battling alongside the tailenders. His century and eventual score of 123 runs from 246 balls bears similarities to his knock earlier in the year in Southampton.

Much like the knock against England, Pujara grinded out the ball initially – even as his allies fell by the way side – before upping the ante with the lower order. He played a key factor again, in Adelaide, to take India from 19/3 at one stage to 143/6 at Tea before taking over the command and accelerated to 250/9 at stumps. Rather fittingly, the only way one could stop him was by a way of sheer brilliance and that is exactly what Pat Cummins exemplified with a bulls-eye effort with one stump to aim at to find Pujara a yard short at the non-striker’s end. That, as it turned out, was the final act of the day which otherwise went Australia’s way.

The day belonged to a combination of dreadful shots by the Indian top order who were guilty of doing a poor job with their drives and Australia’s efficiency in the field to not let any chance go begging.

Pujara strung together two crucial partnerships with lower-order batsmen to ensure India give their bowlers something to bowl at. After Tea, Pujara added 62 runs with R Ashwin (25) for the seventh wicket. Ashwin played watchfully, unlike the Indian top-order who were guilty of squandering their wickets to pitful shots. He played a great role in this minor recovery. Cummins (2/49) finally got the breakthrough in the 74th over when Ashwin edged to second slip. Ishant Sharma (4) then put on 21 runs with Pujara take the score past 200 in the 79th over.

Pujara and Rohit Sharma also had a decent partnership going before the latter, opted instead of Hanuma Vihari, threw his wicket away. Even as Rohit raked in the applause for clean hitting – two sixes off Cummins with one cover the highlight of the day – he was later guilty of a miserable stroke that disrupted his strong start. A ball after almost being caught on the boundary by Marcus Harris off Nathan Lyon, Rohit went for an almost similar stroke but this time got a top edge. Harris ran in from the boundary to take a comfortable catch.

Rishabh Pant (25) too arrived with intent of attacking the bowling. He scored two fours and a six in the space of a few deliveries, before being asked by Pujara to play with a steady head. They then added 41 runs for the sixth wicket. But asked to play against his natural game, Pant edged one behind off Lyon behind to be dismissed shortly before tea.

The morning session was all Australia with India going into the Lunch break at 56/4. Starc and Josh Hazelwood got the Test underway and were on the mark from the word go. Hazlewood struck in his opening over to send KL Rahul back after scoring just 2. Starc had Murali Vijay walking soon after with yet another attempted extravagant drive. Kohli was brought to the middle earlier than he would have anticipated. He looked more confident than the openers but was stopped in his tracks by a stunning Usman Khawaja catch in the gully. The Aussie struck out his left hand and held on after Kohli’s uppishly played drive off Cummins. The worst of the dismissals may well belong to Ajinkya Rahane who reached out to a delivery well outside off and was caught at second slip.

Tail-ender Mohammed Shami survived to stumps on six runs, with Jasprit Bumrah the last batsman to resume on day two.

(With PTI inputs)

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